Fresno officials are making plans to take charge of enforcing habitability conditions at mobile home parks within the city’s boundaries following a fatal fire at a park operating with a suspended license.

Councilmember Garry Bredefeld, representative of District 6 where Trails End Mobile Home park is located, and Mayor Jerry Dyer will introduce an ordinance to City Council on May 27 to have the city take control of enforcement at local mobile home parks which are currently under state jurisdiction. They also intend to ask for state approval.

Dyer said the city “should not be reliant upon outside agencies to enforce certain types of laws in the city that might have an impact, a negative impact on our residents.”

“Whether it’s an apartment complex or a mobile home park within your city, those are your residents,” Dyer said. “And it is incumbent upon the local jurisdictions to make sure that they are living in, first, quality housing, and that the safety standards are being met.”

Bredefeld said if mobile home parks were under city control, the communication breakdown like what occurred between the state and city in Trails End could be avoided.

“We can’t have that happen again,” Bredefeld said. “Someone lost their life. The park shouldn’t have even been operating with their permit being revoked and that will not happen with the city overseeing mobile home parks.”

“We don’t want these tragedies to ever occur again,” he added.

Fatal fire leads to potential change in policy

Ronald Richardson, 56, was killed in the fire that destroyed two mobile homes at Trails End Mobile Home Park on April 29. Fresno firefighters determined the fire was sparked by a generator.

The park, which currently falls under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, was suspended in January because of a lack of response to months of notices of health and safety violations.

While a suspended permit means residents no longer needed to pay the property owner, it did not give the state any authority to close down the park. HCD officials told The Bee that only the city can take action toward closing the park, yet the city was not notified of issues at the park until the fire.

Under current policy, Fresno City Code Enforcement cannot take any action within the park, and the city can only take action toward abating issues in the park if HCD notifies them.

Now, city officials are considering action to ensure all 36 mobile home parks within its boundaries are under its watch; this requires a city ordinance and state approval.

“The city will make sure if there are problems, they are being addressed,” Bredefeld said. “If they’re not being addressed, we have programs like (the Anti-Slum Task Force).”

Throughout the state, six counties and 51 cities have already made the move to assume local jurisdiction, according to the HCD Codes and Standards Automated Systems.

If the city moves forward with local jurisdiction, Fresno will have the third-most mobile home parks under a city’s local jurisdiction, according to data from the HCD.

“This has the potential to be very beneficial,” said Mariah Thompson, attorney with Central California Legal Services. “They’d have the opportunity to inspect more than just Trails End … and we know this park isn’t the only one that needs it.”

Thompson said mobile home park residents are in a unique and vulnerable situation because they own their home, yet rent the land on which they live, making protections all the more necessary. She added that local control could fix the “rampant” issues that have gone unaddressed at mobile home parks.

“Mobile home ownership is one of the last avenues of affordable home ownership for low-income and very low-income people, not just in California but across the United States,” Thompson said.

What local control would mean

If the state approves the city’s request to take control of the park, City Code Enforcement could inspect, both proactively and reactively, homes in the 36 mobile home parks within the city.

Dyer said he and Bredefeld plan to ask the state for funding for four to five additional code enforcement officers. The mayor said he did not know, as of Friday, how much money the city would need to adequately enforce health and safety codes at mobile home parks.

Bredefeld said the city has the capacity to take on code enforcement of the 36 mobile home parks and may hire additional code enforcement if there is need.

According to City Attorney Doug Sloan, the change in jurisdiction would still require local code enforcement officers to follow the regulations and health and safety standards set by the HCD, which are different from the Fresno City Code Enforcement policies.

Regardless, Sloan told the Council he believes the move would ensure that the city is aware of unsafe situations.

“I think we (would) certainly have more control,” Sloan said Thursday. “We don’t need to rely upon a state agency; we could do it correctly within their perimeters of what state law requires, but we would have direct control.”

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